Internet Crime - FindLaw Blotter

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There are few things worse than hate for a person to expend their energy and mental wherewithal on. One of those few things is live streaming you and your friends torturing an innocent person while yelling politically and racially charged statements. In what should be held out as an example of just sheer brazen stupidity, four 18-year-old teens have been arrested as a result of a Facebook Live video they posted of themselves torturing another teen.

While it is unclear what the motivation for the torture was, what is clear is that the victim was subjected to an awfully scary situation, was physically restrained, verbally and physically assaulted numerous times, and threatened with death, all while being video recorded.

Because of the young age of the perpetrators, despite the racial and political statements, law enforcement has been hesitant to actually call this a hate crime rather than just kids making stupid mistakes and saying things to get attention. Sadly, at one point during the video, the woman making the video asks why no one is watching her live stream.

Last week, the Department of Justice announced that an international ransomware and hacking operation, which hit a Pennsylvania county's district attorney's office for a $1,400 ransom, had been shut down. The bust happened as a result of a coordinated effort between 40 nations as the cybercrime operation had a worldwide impact. The DOJ announced that arrests were made in four separate countries and dozens of servers that hosted the malicious programs were shut down.

The Pennsylvania county district attorney's office was infected because a single employee clicked on a link in a phishing email that the employee believed to be from another legitimate government agency. The one click led to the office's files being locked until a bitcoin ransom was paid. The Pennsylvania prosecutors traced their hack back to Australia. Other victims of these attacks have had their computers taken over, and have had sensitive banking data stolen, leading to theft through illegal wire fraud.

Although the media portrays hackers as malicious computer programmers, it doesn't actually take as much know-how as one might expect to violate computer hacking laws. For starters, merely accessing another person's e-mail or social media accounts without authorization violates a decades-old federal law, and can also violate state and local criminal laws.

However, not all hacking is malicious or illegal. There are many "hackers" that are actually working to improve software, improve security, and generally do good things. What will make hacking a computer or device a crime depends largely on the type of hacking and the ownership of the device or computer.

As virtual reality technology advances, like with every new technology, the law frequently needs time to play catch-up. We have already seen the law extend to cover credible criminal threats made online. However, when it comes to virtual reality (VR), lawmakers may be teetering upon an uncertain slippery slope. 

Recently, a virtual reality user reported having her VR character (avatar) repeatedly molested by another VR user inside the same VR world. Despite the lack of actual physical contact, the violated user explained that she felt many of the same emotions as she did when she was groped in real life, and to make matters worse, there was nothing she could do to stop the virtual attack, short of signing off from the game. In response to the VR sexual assault, the game-makers created a user command that allows a user to create a personal bubble that removes all other live players nearby.

Is Identity Theft a Felony?

Like many other crimes, identity theft is a wobbler. Depending on the state and the severity of the crime, identity theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Sometimes, it's not even called identity theft, but rather impersonation, or fraud. Generally, an identity thief will gain access to a person's bank or credit card information, or enough personal information to open a new credit card, and use the credit to make purchases or cash withdrawals or cash transfers.

Typically, when an identity thief uses their illicitly gained information to steal money, or make purchases, in the absence of specific identity theft laws, the crime will usually be treated like any other theft. Theft crimes tend to wobble between misdemeanor and felony charges depending on the circumstances and value of the stolen or illegally purchased items. Additionally, restitution is usually part of the punishment, regardless of whether it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

Since the assimilation of social media into everyday life became nearly unavoidable, lawmakers have been working to strengthen the laws prohibiting cyberbullying, cybercrime, and online threats. Potentially in spite of the Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that reversed the conviction of a man who posted his own original rap lyrics about his fantasy of killing his wife on social media, state's around the country continue to embrace new laws that create for a safer, less hostile online environment.

The Supreme Court's stance on online threats seems to land more in favor of characterizing even the most despicable speech as protected under the first amendment. Despite the Supreme Court's stance that the online harasser's intent matters, states can still regulate and prosecute people they believe have made credible online threats.

In these modern times where newspapers don’t use paper, the internet and computer technology has opened up a whole new world of potential crimes you may not even be aware are crimes. Even though the internet is still a wild wild west of sorts, there are many laws that allow law enforcement to arrest people for acting out online, and sometimes just for doing what is considered normal online activity.

Below are 5 computer crimes that can get you arrested in order from most likely to get you arrested to least likely.

Amid the recent allegations from the White House that the Russian government was involved in the DNC cyber attack, questions have been arising about the legality of international hackers interfering with elections. There are several laws on the books in the United States -- and in most countries -- that make it illegal to interference with an election, whether through cyber attack or otherwise. However, it's not so simple to determine how these laws can be enforced against a person in a different country.

The White House's recent position on the DNC hack has grave implications due to the strained relationship between the US and Russia. While there are numerous international agreements in place that address international espionage and cyber-crime, getting concrete proof that the attack came from Russian officials may not be possible. Additionally, to enforce US laws that address these issues would require extradition of the responsible party to US soil, so they could be tried in a US court.

The CEO of a popular classified ads website, Backpage.com, was arrested on Thursday on felony pimping of a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping, charges. CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested in Texas based upon the charges that California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed in California. The complaint alleges that Ferrer and Backpage.com have profited from the escort advertisements that get posted on Backpage.com by individual prostitutes, as well as escort services that are engaged in human trafficking.

Currently, Ferrer is being held on a $500,000 bond and will soon be extradited to California to face criminal chrages. Law enforcement is also currently investigating Ferrer and Backpage.com's offices in Texas. At this point, it is unclear whether Ferrer will also faces charges in a Texas court. If should also be noted, the two controlling shareholders of the site, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, currently have warrants issued for their arrest on similar charges.

5 Mugshot FAQs

Websites that post arrest mugshots online have been the subject of much laughter, but only at the expense of humiliating arrestees, both innocent and guilty. Additionally, the online posting of mugshots can create personal, social, and career problems for the individuals whose mugshots get posted.

The real problem herein lies in the fact that mugshots are taken after an arrest, but before a conviction. Even if a person is found innocent, arrested on accident, or even framed by the police, their mugshot can live on in infamy. To better understand this issue, here are 5 frequently asked questions about mugshots.